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Sonata Arctica - "Pariah's Child" (CD)

Sonata Arctica - "Pariah's Child" CD cover image

"Pariah's Child" track listing:

1. The Wolves Die Young
2. Running Lights
3. Take One Breath
4. Cloud Factory
5. Blood
6. What Did You Do in the War, Dad?
7. Half a Marathon Man
8. X Marks the Spot
9. Love
10. Larger Than Life

Reviewed by on March 12, 2014

"''Pariah’s Child' is strikingly immaculate and you can feel the invigoration within the band, so watch out....it is contagious!'"

Once again, Sonata Arctica has decided to dupe its loyal fanbase with another round of less flattering “hokey, okie,” “laughable” and awkwardly half-progressive music presented on “Stones Grow Her Name.” At least back then, the band had the decency to warn us power metal nerds ahead of time by using the word “different,” even though we still hung on to hope. This time around vocalist Tony Kakko baited with the ultimate in devilish inducement, saying this was a return to “power metal.” Well…if all “Stones” did was induce disgorge, expect more of the same steaming pile of disease with “Pariah’s Child.” The album is aptly named…as the band truly has become persona non grata in the last many years.

Delving into the album if I may, assuming I can hold back the regurgitation felt upon each listen, the trippy poppy happy first single “The Wolves Die Young” is the closest the band comes to the glorious days of “Ecliptica,” ”Silence,” and the gorgeous “Winterheart’s Guild.” However, it isn’t very much, as the song comes across more mediocre than “power metal.” I thought for sure that “Pariah’s Child” would be the return we power metal fans grew up on, back in those days where the band was less pop and much more serious on songs like “Letter to Dana,” “Weballergy,” “Champagne Bath” and “My Land” – all epic songs of power metal greatness. Instead, “Pariah’s Child” pokes fun at the band’s stellar past…a total insult to educated and well-rounded fans, as if Tony Kakko was mooning us all and flipping the bird. There is no doubt that the issue lies in squarely in the departure of guitarist Jani Limatainen, who was 100% responsible for every single great song the band ever produced. When he left in 2007, a part of me died and the trail of musical garbage that came since was proof and a stab to a true fan’s soul. No Jani....no Sonata Arctica! The legacy of Sonata Arctica is doomed to ever rise again. And here we stand duped again, this time much more painful than the last with the band opting to act like a sheep in wolves clothing.....

Did any of that sound familiar? What is it about Sonata Arctica fans that makes acceptance of change so hard? That could have been the start of any number of reviews for either of the last two albums, had I not already fully embraced Sonata Arctica for a change that transformed the band from a moth to a butterfly on “Stones Grow Her Name.” Sure, its not expected that everyone embrace change and material presented on "Stones" and "Pariah's Child" will certainly not win out on diehard fans. However, with Sonata Arctica, the change has made the songwriting open to anything. The newly reinvented Sonata Arctica sound adds just about anything – light hearted rock, speedy awkwardly pop oriented riffs, banjo, gospel, progressive, huge gigantic orchestrated Queen-like tracks (“Larger Than Life”) and yes, even power metal. It’s about as refreshing as it gets and it makes the reinvigorated power metal aspects of this album even more endearing.

Having been a fan during the "epic power metal version" of Sonata Arctica, it’s not as if the band has never dared to be anything but. "Awkwardly commercial" has been sort of a trademark of the band from the start, so the fact that material on current albums in the discography has ramped up what was once just a quirky trait should not be such a shock. This change was going to happen...and it’s actually a relief that it did. "Pariah's Child" is devoid of boredom and has made the band unpredictable and amazing.

The entire album shines, from airy numbers like "Take One Breath" and "Cloud Factory" to more traditional aspects in songs like "The Wolves Die Young" and "Running Lights." But the songs that elevate this band above so many others are when there is a distinct combination of new and old, with the old creeping out when you least expect it, like on "Blood" and "What Did You Do In the War, Dad?" Sans the banjo. "X Marks The Spot" is the "Cinderblox" of this album, a breathtakingly fun track with a preacher man that makes the entire album. The closer "Larger Than Life" is the embodiment of the new and improved Sonata Arctica that commences as a beautiful piano ballad and quickly turns into a huge orchestrated masterpiece that literally is "larger than life" - even at times reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie (check out the part at 1:57). And then like a smack in the face, the message comes forth "don't take life so seriously" (you'll know it when you hear it).

"Pariah’s Child" is strikingly immaculate and you can feel the invigoration within the band, so watch out...it is highly contagious! When you accept it for what it is and allow the energy to flow through you, it is an album that is capable of making the listener beam with a grin from ear to ear from start to finish. If I think back to the last time that happened to me, it was an album called “Stones Grow Her Name.” The preacher was right… “I’d given my life to rock ‘n’ roll, but I still wasn’t sure….was there rock ‘n’ roll? Was it real?” X Marks the Spot!

Highs: "X Marks the Spot," "Larger Than Life" are just two of the many highlights of this stellar album.

Lows: If you were turned off by "Stones Grow Her Name," this only brings the power metal you crave in short doses.

Bottom line: Sonata Arctica betrays its power metal fanbase and wins again....X MARKS THE SPOT!

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)